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JONGLEI - 5 Jun 2023

SPLM-IO says senior member briefly detained in Ayod

Police officer during a clean-up campaign at police stations in Northern Bahr el Ghazal State with support from UNPOL in May 2021. Photo by Emmanuel Kele/UNMISS.
Police officer during a clean-up campaign at police stations in Northern Bahr el Ghazal State with support from UNPOL in May 2021. Photo by Emmanuel Kele/UNMISS.

The opposition SPLM-IO said security agents had detained one of its senior members before being released in Ayod County of Jonglei State last week.

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement In-Opposition (SPLM-IO) is led by the country’s first vice president Riek Machar.

President Salva Kiir, who is also the chairman of the ruling SPLM Party, First Vice President Riek Machar, and other political figures signed a revitalized peace agreement in 2018 that ended five years of civil war.

The end of the transitional period was scheduled for 2022 but was pushed back to December 2024 due to the lack of progress on many provisions of the agreement. Elections are due to be held before the end of the transitional period.

Speaking to Radio Tamazuj on Saturday, Michael Bol Gatdor, the SPLM-IO party secretary-general in Jonglei State, said Mr. Juach Gatwech, who is also the county executive director, was arrested in the early hours of Friday, barely a week after returning from a peace mission.

“The official was picked up from his house at 1 am by the police and other security organs on orders of the county commissioner. Juach was only released in the afternoon after we raised the concerns with Juba,” Bol said. “So, as the SPLM-IO, we strongly condemned the arrest of this senior official for no reason.”

He added, “The executive director was in Mogok to recover cattle raided from Nyirol. He recovered the cattle and handed them over to Nyirol officials. On his return to Ayod, he was asked not to resume work and then later detained. Our message is that these arbitrary arrests are not helpful. Those being arrested have followers who may react and this may not end well. “

Ayod County Commissioner James Chuol Jiek, a member of the SPLM Party, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Reacting to the opposition official’s arrest for several hours, Ter Manyang Gatwech, a South Sudanese political observer, said political space is shrinking.

“Such arrests are due to a lack of collaboration between the parties to the peace agreement and restriction of civic space among the parties,” Manyang said. “In Ayod, there are a lot of issues. On 15 May, the county police chief was killed on his way to Uror. So, there is a need for our politicians to understand the peace agreement they are implementing.”

 Meanwhile, Edmund Yakani, a prominent civil society activist, while speaking on Radio Tamazuj’s Road to Election Program, called on the parties to the peace agreement to respect freedom of expression in areas under their control.

“On 22 October 2022, the presidency agreed that state governors, county commissioners, and all other local administrators should open political space for all parties to conduct their activities. But his was violated immediately by both SPLM and SPLM-IO in places like Aweil and Fangak. So, there is a need for the freedom of expression to be extended to the media and political parties other than the SPLM party by the national security,” he said.